Great (Audio) Moments in Storytelling

December 8, 2016 § 7 Comments

Dive in, then get to the background

Dive in, then get to the background

Hark! The Brevity Podcast sings once again on Monday, with Rick Moody and Athena Dixon gracing our airwaves. To tide you over, here are some of our favorite podcasts–some with amazing storytelling, others with sharp tips on story structure. Download a few for your car time or your dinner prep, and we look forward to sharing our own Episode 3!


Story Structure: The ‘e’

Transom has long been an excellent source for both radio-makers and storytellers in other mediums. Their podcast How Sound talks about positioning the narrator, asking good questions–even how to approach difficult interview subjects. This episode addresses a story structure often used in magazine articles and personal essays. It looks like a lowercase ‘e’ and solves the problem of how to get the reader involved right away when you still need backstory. The How Sound team breaks down a specific radio story, stopping and starting to point out the structural elements. Only about 20 minutes long, and a must-listen for anyone struggling with where or when to start an essay.

The Mystery Show: Belt Buckle

Starlee Kine hosts this charming, low-key show in which each episode, she solves a mystery that can’t be figured out on the internet. This is the best of last season’s six episodes, and it is beautiful and heartbreaking and pure delight. Listen when you need some feel-good catharsis that’s still plenty meaningful, and notice how she wraps a whole story around a single, quirky object.

Love & Radio: Jack & Ellen

The sound quality is a little weird at the beginning, but stick it out. This is one of the craziest, most twisted, fascinating and bizarre true stories I’ve ever heard. Anything specific I can tell you would wreck it, but know that it’s about turning the tables on some not-very-nice people. Structurally, this story starts us thinking one thing, turns it into something else, and the takeaway is a different subtext entirely. A good one for when you’re struggling with a deep, layered story. Not safe for work or kids.

Reply All: Perfect Crime

What do you do when you love doing something everyone else hates? Actor Catherine Russell is the one-woman motivation behind the worst-reviewed still-running play in New York. She already knows the audience will walk out puzzled, annoyed, even hostile. So why keep doing it? For when you aren’t really sure if the world is ready for your work (it is).


This has zero to do with storytelling. But if you like quizzes and trivia, and you really, really need to get your brain into a neutral, reasonably positive place, this short weekly quiz is a great way to get the neurons firing. Skip the music played between the main quiz and the answers, it’s always terrible. Or revel in the hideousness. Your call. Then go write something, using the weirdest answer as a prompt.

Happy listening–and take a moment to subscribe to the Brevity Podcast, won’t you? If you’re already a happy listener, please leave us a review!


Allison K Williams hosts the Brevity Podcast.

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§ 7 Responses to Great (Audio) Moments in Storytelling

  • Jan Priddy says:

    Allison, I am always thrilled when I see you have something up. Can I just say how much I love that little graphic. It inspires me to search for another letter to represent the “arc” of the novel I am working on, which is not quite an e.

    Sadly, podcasts are not for me. I am a good reader and I enjoy reading aloud. I am not a very good listener. I will try for the sake of the e.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      I have a graphic for five-act structure, too 🙂 Just taught a webinar on developmental editing and made about a zillion PowerPoint slides.

      Thanks so much – I always look forward to your thoughtful comments!

  • dubuas says:

    I love the Podcast! Full of information and inspiration I can plug into anytime, anywhere!

  • Jan Priddy says:

    I listened to “Story Structure” and it is very interesting—both the story and the analysis. I used to pull a trick on students who had written a creative nonfiction essay. In peer editing, I would circle the room, requiring each editor to note moving the last passage to the beginning. Most often, I would find a strong line a few lines before the end, then circle the last bit to be moved. “Bad news,” I would say, “you have to move that last paragraph or passage to the beginning for your essay.” They really REALLY hated that. But then, as they went back to their own essay and saw what this reorganization accomplished, they were delighted. Mostly.

    • Allison K Williams says:

      Oooo I love that! And I’m glad you liked the episode. I have a rough time with audiobooks because I read faster than I can be read to, but I put podcasts on while I’m getting ready in the morning, and while I’m cooking! And my husband and I commute together, so we listen in the car most mornings 🙂

      • Jan Priddy says:

        I should try that in the car! I tend to have an old movie on while I cook, though just now a wonderful documentary about hummingbirds. The biggest difficulty for me is that I am so visual. While I listened to the radio, I searched for images of what he was discussing.

  • Brilliant. Great learning here. Love + Radio is scary 🙂

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